“You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” While this statement rings true in every walk of life, it especially resonates with diet changes.
Food was never something I thought twice about growing up. I ate regularly, knew my favorite foods and never stopped to think “what if one day, I could no longer eat corn or beans or salad?” It’s hard to go from eating anything and everything to a diet with restrictions. Let’s face it, diet changes are scary.
Seth and I attended a CCFA event last November where someone raised their hand and asked the speaker (a doctor), “What foods do you recommend someone with IBD avoid?” Seth and I exchanged a glance, curious as to how the doctor would respond. The doctor responded by saying there is not a one-size-fits-all “IBD diet” and that patients should work with their doctors to figure out a diet that works. She also mentioned patients are often put on low-residue (fiber) diets to prevent flares. While there is no gold standard for an inflammatory bowel disease diet, there are many options to choose from.
If your doctor doesn’t bring up diet during your appointments, you should. Diet is a huge piece to the IBD puzzle and you want to make sure you are doing everything possible to keep yourself healthy.
Now, let’s consider the alternate scenario. In a conversation at one of your appointments, your doctor recommends you go on a specific diet. You may hear Specific Carbohydrate Diet, Low-FODMAPs diet, gluten free, low-residue and paleo. In some ways, at least psychologically, I think a diet prescription from a doctor can be more challenging than a medication prescription. A medication is mostly straightforward – you take a medication and hope it works. Diet changes come with social, emotional and physical challenges. While I don’t want to minimize the medication side of treatment, I do want to delve a little bit deeper into addressing some of the challenges of being put on a new diet.
You leave your doctor’s office with instructions to start on a new diet – let’s say a gluten free diet. You think to yourself, “now what?” Until five minutes ago, you lived on sandwiches and pasta. You don’t consider yourself a cook. You have two options – freak out or make a plan.
Since you are reading this blog and clearly care about making an informed choice, let’s assume you take the “make a plan” route:
- Type up a list of all of the foods you CAN eat. Consider dividing the foods by categories such as vegetables, fruit, fish, meat, grains and other. Include every food you can think of that you can eat. Let’s focus on the positives here, shall we? Focus on what you can eat, not what you cannot eat. Empower yourself to learn exactly which foods are best for YOU.
- At the end of the document, list your favorite dishes or foods (regardless of whether you can eat them). Look at your list of dishes and foods and think about how they fit into your new diet. Are they completely off limits? Can they be modified to meet your dietary requirements? Usually the answer is yes. In my book, it is generally possible to modify a dish to some capacity so it meets your dietary requirements. If you are dairy free and your favorite dish is fettucine alfredo, you have the option of making the sauce with non-dairy cream. If you are gluten free and you love banana bread, you can make a delicious gluten free version (Try out the winning recipe at the end of this blogpost!).
- Make a separate document listing the foods you cannot eat. This will be a useful document to send around to friends and family who cook for you in the future.
Now you are closer to a plan – you have a list of foods you can and cannot eat. You know what dishes you can modify to make yourself happy. What’s next? Scour the internet and your cookbooks for recipes with the foods you can eat. Make Supercook your go-to website. Through Supercook, you can search thousands of recipes by specific ingredients. You can find recipes that contain the foods you can eat. This is a great, free resource at your fingertips. Pick a few recipes you can make to eat during the week. Just remember you can always modify recipes (soy, almond or rice milk for regular milk), gluten free pasta for regular pasta, applesauce for oil when baking, etc.
Make a shopping list. What staples do you need for your pantry? Gluten free all-purpose flour? Sesame oil? What ingredients do you need for the week? What snacks can you buy that you can grab and eat on the go? Make this as easy as possible for yourself.
Many of you reading this may respond to my suggestion by saying, “but I can’t cook.” Start with simple dishes, fried rice or a crustless quiche. Cooking doesn’t have to be complicated, you just have to set aside the time and follow the directions in a recipe. Make cooking a challenge for yourself. You are living with a chronic disease and you are invincible (even in the cooking world!). Cook a few dishes over the weekend so you don’t need to cook again for the rest of the week.
Make your diet change fun. Invite friends over for a cooking party. Cook with your family. Cook a meal together that contains dishes you can eat. Send your friends home with the recipes so when you come over they already have recipes on hand they know you can eat and enjoy.
With a little bit of creativity and a little bit of organization, diet changes can actually be fun.
Part of the fun of diet change is getting to try new or different foods. Last Fall, local friends served us delicious, homemade gluten free banana bread (recipe below). I could NOT believe it was gluten free and immediately asked if we could feature it on our blog. I made the recipe a couple of weeks later for a group of gluten eaters and one token gluten free guest. I even made it dairy-free. The banana bread was the only dessert that nearly disappeared. Thank you to Shira Rosenbaum for letting us share this recipe with our readers. It is the only banana bread recipe I will use moving forward. I dare you to try it. You won’t be disappointed!
The Gluten Free Triple B (Best Banana Bread)
4 ripe bananas (brown!)
1 cup sugar
1 stick margarine/earth balance or butter
2 cups flour (any gluten free blend, I like the 1:1 blend)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
Chocolate chips (about ¾ of a cup)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Mix the first three ingredients together.
Mix in the eggs and then the dry ingredients.
Pour into a greased (or oiled loaf pan) and bake for an hour or until the banana bread browns on the top
Recipe credit: Shira Rosenbaum